Overseas tourists feature in crashes

Last updated 05:00 08/03/2014

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Crashes and driving complaints in the Mackenzie District relate mainly to tourists driving with international licences, a police officer says.

There have been a series of crashes in the district over recent months, many involving tourists who are unfamiliar with the area, Senior Constable Les Andrew, of the Twizel police, said.

One of those incidents involved a Dutch tourist who, this week, lost control of his vehicle on State Highway 8, between Hayman Rd and Simons Hill. He was uninjured.

Last month Senior Constable Brent Swanson, of Lake Tekapo police, reported an incident in which an American tourist's vehicle crossed the centre line and collided with a car travelling in the opposite direction, near Godley Peaks Rd. The driver's wife was taken to hospital with minor injuries.

"I think the driver got a bit disorientated and drove as if he was back home in America," Mr Swanson said.

A driver with a tourist's licence was also apprehended by police in February after he was clocked at 150kmh near Tekapo. The driver did not crash.

However, Mr Andrew said there was a "really, really high number" of crashes involving tourists in the Mackenzie, particular near Twizel.

"You find a lot of them haven't had their licence very long either."

He said in many cases the tourists had never driven in such a picturesque area with wide open spaces, which was possibly a distraction to them.

"[Crashes involving people with international licences] is a big issue up here with so many tourists coming through.

"[During] Chinese New Year [on January 31] I actually noticed the increase in crashes and (111 and *555 calls) where people reported cars going over centre lines over that period.

"It actually increased quite a lot and corresponded with the Chinese New Year."


Overseas drivers are responsible for almost one third of crashes in the Mackenzie District.

Last year there were 18 crashes in the area. Of those, five had foreign drivers as a contributing factor.

A New Zealand Transport Association (NZTA) spokesperson said, however, it was important to note that the information recorded regarding crashes does not stipulate whether drivers with international licences are tourists, new residents or migrants.

"So we can't say that all of the crashes and casualties listed ... are 'tourist drivers', only that they are drivers with overseas licences."

Of the five crashes in the Mackenzie last year in which foreign drivers were a factor, one was fatal, one resulted in a serious injury and three resulted in minor injuries.

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The NZTA spokesperson said no particular part of the wider South Canterbury area was of more concern than another.

"Statistics for injury crashes in South Canterbury do not identify any particular black spots; the crashes are happening randomly throughout the region."

Almost 60 per cent were head-on, or involved drivers losing control.

"The Transport Agency is working hard to reduce crashes on our roads involving overseas drivers, and our hearts go out to the families and friends of visitors involved in crashes in our country, as well as to all New Zealanders affected by these crashes," the spokesperson said.

- The Timaru Herald

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